Chicken Coop Clean-Up

Warning: if you have recently eaten or have a weak stomach, stop reading now.

I have always thought of myself as having a tough stomach. I grew up dissecting dead animals we found in the woods, I have assisted in gynecological surgical procedures and I ate my way through the back alley streets of Peru without any problems. Yet, nothing prepared me for the stench of cleaning out a chicken coop.

New Morning Farm has hundreds of chicken. There are the fluffy baby chicks that still cling to one another when they go outdoors, contrasted nicely by the featherless ‘things’ that have been in so many chicken fights it’s amazing they are still alive. All of these chickens live in separate pens in the chicken coop and all of these chickens have active digestive systems. Every couple of months someone is honored with the task of scrapping up and shoveling out the excrements. We were the lucky couple this time!

I rarely admit defeat, but this coop defeated me.

I blazed into the coop, pitchfork in hand, mask securely fastened to my face and ready to clean up the crap. Ten minutes in, I was doing all I could to stop myself from gagging every time I lifted up a new pile of waste. Suddenly, my gallant knight in rubber boots strode in to relieve me of my task and finish up the coop himself. All I had to do was keep shoveling the manure into the wheelbarrow and bring it to the tractor. An hour later, Chase emerged from the coop without any signs of disgust. What a brave boyfriend I have.

I took a final peak inside the coop and, surprisingly, I could see the bare wood floor. Chase’s ability to fight through the smell resulted in a beautifully clean home for the chickens. We layered in fresh straw and let the chickens back into their shiny new home. I am still deciding whether the deliciousness of fresh eggs is worth the disgust, but I am leaning towards yes – especially with Chase in the picture.

Cheezies, Choir and Coca Cola


Today, Dana and I slept in until 9:50AM! Although, to be honest, the other mornings we only woke up as early as 8:00AM. Turns out farmers don’t always have to wake up at the crack of dawn. We are getting very comfortable with our first farm family, Nancy and Lorne Hall. We have learned so much about Canadian traditions and political systems. They took us into the town of Gimli today to help with some flower planting and window washing at a local senior citizen home. Afterwards, Lorne and I went to clean up some grass clippings and he introduced me to the local snack “Cheezies.” It is similar to Cheetos but, I must say, far better – especially with a nice, ice-cold Coca Cola from a glass bottle, which Lorne says feels great on your lips and I completely agree. Lorne explained that Cheezies only have one advertising scheme, they make smaller versions of their snacks for Halloween so that they can be handed out to children. Cheezies are also coveted for their top secret method of making no individual Cheezie the same. Each one has a unique and different shape, making it one of Canada’s leading ladies in the snack food isle. 

Giant Mosquito in Komarno, Manitoba
Next, we stopped by the giant mosquito in the town of Komarno – which means mosquito in Ukrainian. The mosquito was created to commemorate the worst mosquito season in history. Cattle in the area didn’t even breed that season because they were too busy trying to get the mosquitos off of themselves. Officials reported that the mosquitos reached a peak of 30 bites per minute. 

We headed home for a delicious lunch of stuffed peppers and cucumber salad. Lorne and Nancy informed us that tonight they had choir rehearsal, which we were welcome to attend. We were excited for what the night would bring. Our lunch stretched on a bit and we began to feel bad for being too chatty, so we set out to finish weeding the raspberry patch. Dana and I are particularly proud of this project because it is the crop that Lorne is most proud of and we felt honored to help him. 

After finishing up our work for the day, we headed in for another incredible meal. All of the meals that Nancy cooks are made from scratch, with the majority of the ingredients coming from the farm. Today we had delicious meatloaf, made from the cows they raise, baked potatoes, cooked cucumbers and the world’s best coleslaw (sorry Dana). Her coleslaw had apples mixed in with the cabbage – I don’t know how I have been missing this my entire life. 

After quick showers, we all changed into our Sunday best and traveled a short distance to a neighbor’s farm. On the way there we drove passed an airport, where the famed Gimli Glider made an emergency landing due to the crew miscalculating the fuel based on the imperial system rather than the newly adopted metric system. Apparently, this exact plane was recently put up on the auction block but did not garner enough bidding to sell.

As we pulled into the farm, just in time for choir practice, we were not sure what to expect. But, we should not have had any reservations, because this was another group of welcoming, smiling faces. The choir consisted of 15 men, women, and children from around the community. The choir director asked Dana and I if we were soprano, alto, tenor, or bass, We looked at each other with nervous faces and told him we didn’t know. He placed us where he thought we might fit and for the next two hours we practiced our singing. Everyone was talented and supportive and so we ended another fulfilling and fun day on the farm. 

Choir practice
Just finished planting beans


Locked Up A-Blog

Well, we have now entered Canada – I wouldn’t exactly say that we were welcomed in, but they allowed us into their country for 30 days. Why, you may ask, are we only allowed for 30 days? Because we lied. While it is no excuse for common sense, there was some logic behind our madness.

The program that we are farming with is called WOOF-Canada and if you check out their website, they make it seem like telling boarder patrols the truth about your intentions to farm in Canada will cause them to deny you entry. That being said, we crafted a little story about staying with a family friend in Canada. Yes, we risked a $10,000 fine and time in jail just because we thought we would be able to “out-smart” the border patrols.

As we drove through the entrance to Canada we were greeted by a nice woman who asked us quite a few questions about our travel plans. We thought that we were doing great and that we would be off to farming in Canada in only a few short minutes. We were wrong. She directed us to park our car and wait for an officer. The first officer had us remove all belongings from our car and tell him more about our plans in Canada. So far, so good, the story was holding up and we had only slightly lied about our true intentions of farming. Next, we headed back inside to talk with another officer about our plans. This is where it all started going downhill.

The officer asked who we were staying with and I told him, “A family friend.” He accepted this answer and asked for her contact information. I had her contact information in an email printed in my car as well as in an email on my phone. He wanted to see the one on my phone – in fact, he wanted to search my whole phone. He told us to take a seat while he “did a little digging.” This is when I knew we were in trouble, because the email chain contained information stating that the border patrols have become a bit strict lately and that it would be better if we did not tell them about our farming intentions.

The minute he called me up to the desk I knew he knew the truth. He wasn’t some bifocal-wearing, old man who couldn’t use an iPhone if Steve Jobs were personally tutoring him. This was Officer Generation X, just waiting to bust us. The moment I realized this, I burst into tears. Not just a single, strategic tear that would show my sincerity – more like uncontrollable crying. He called Chase up to the desk at this time to answer the questions that I was trying to get out between sniffles and sobs.

We told him the truth. After he did more “digging” on Chase’s phone, he confirmed that our farming story was the truth. He informed us of the severity of lying to an officer and told us that he would only allow us to stay in the country for 30 days, after which we would have to leave or risk arrest. We have never felt so bad in our entire lives. We asked if we could speak to the first officer once more so that we could apologize – I was crying throughout this apology too. Embarrassing. As he was stamping our final paperwork to send us on our way, he began to discuss the rules of volunteering in Canada. Chase finally got him to crack a smile when he noticed my tears starting to well-up again and said, “Oh no, if we don’t leave now you are going to get round three of tears.” Officer Generation X laughed and sent us on our way.

To Canada and Beyond

Our trip officially began yesterday!  We are excited to meet new people and learn all about sustainable agriculture over the next year. Below are a couple of statistics to measure our progress as we go!

Trip Stats:

Miles on Honda Civic: 54,622

Blog Pageviews: 1,067
Gas Stations: 1 
Farms Visited: 0
Art Sold: 0
Dana’s Facebook Friends: 1,078
Chase’s Facebook Friends: 221
Woodticks: 1

Stay tuned for our horrific border crossing experience in the next blog entry.